Month: May 2012

Writing essays under pressure

As much as I like to say there is, there is no quick fix for learning how to write essays in an hour. You have to practise. You have to know the content. You have to be confident in your ability to use precise language and dynamic expression. I’ve been scouring the internet for some tips of how to approach writing essays in an hour. As you can imagine there is a plethora of information out there – but who wants to be sorting through it all? I’ll try to keep posting any that I feel will be useful.

Have a look at this article: Essay Exams

It covers a lot of information and has some pearls of wisdom. I like the section towards the end about physiological preparation. What strikes me most about this article is that it’s not saying anything your teachers haven’t been saying for years.

Hope it helps.

How changing your attitude can dramatically improve your scores!

I found this article on

I will continually bombard you with articles until you scream “No more!”


How changing your attitude can dramatically improve your scores!

May 7th, 2012 | VCE Tips | No Comments

Fact: The VCE is a competition.

Fact: There are so many brilliant minds out there with vocabularies that can wow the pants off examiners in seconds.

Fact: We have all felt intimidated at some stage of this race by these kids, but here’s the craziest fact of them all….

Fact: You can be one of them.

Do you really believe that the top VCE students, you know, those 99.95 geniuses out there, study religiously for 6-8 hours a day and feel totally motivated to work 24/7?

I used to think that these kiddos were on auto pilot – robots that never had difficulty remembering a quote, never struggled to find their next point in an analytical essay, could always find the energy to write another piece for their teacher to correct. It was as though these students weren’t real, but now that I have had a personal experience at tackling the VCE, I think that anyone can appear to be this ‘amazing’ in English, simply by following one piece of advice: changing your attitude towards studying.

There are no magic tricks, no gimmicks, and no simpler way to put this. If you want to see real results, you need a new perspective on not just English, but all subjects – start “wanting” to study. Today.

So how does this epic VCE competition – full of thousands of students – set apart the very top end students as opposed to the, well, only great students? I’m a firm believer in that your attitude towards your studies will always be indicative of how well you will perform in this race. So don’t start changing what, when or how much you study, make changes to how you study!

Easier said than done, right? Try me. Start by immersing yourself in English (or any subject for that matter) so that you can start to enjoy learning about it. For instance, go to a book club for context, debate the pros and cons of a character’s personality as if they are actually real, and watch the movie adaptation of the book you are studying etc.

Try to find as many avenues as possible that will allow you to enjoy writing an essay, even by taking baby steps. Why not start playing around with an imaginative story about your favourite TV show just to get the hang of creative writing before you hand in an imaginative essay tailored to your study requirements? Once you change that attitude from “I ‘need’ to write this” to “I ‘want’ to and ‘would like to’ improve on this” you will see an enormous shift in results, self-satisfaction and confidence! Don’t be daunted by a difficult topic in the text response section – view it as a way of “showing off” to the examiners; take your time planning about how much depth you can put into your response and make it a challenge to rise beyond expectations as opposed to meeting the bare minimum and providing a mediocre response.

So c’mon! Dive right into the deep end and throw yourself into your studies. You don’t need to take out a mortgage, nor a fancy exercise book with fluffy pink pens. You only need to pack your positive attitude.

Julia has recently completed Year 12 and is studying Bachelor of Arts at Monash University in 2012. If you’re interested in tutoring with Julia, feel free to contact her at

Practice Task

If you would like to have a go writing a comparison analysis between now and Wednesday, open the article below.

State Government should keep hands off our schoolies

Also, sometimes it helps to see how to write the analysis from someone else’s perspective, rather than mine all the time. Have a look at this website. Read the forum I’ve linked, and then have a look around the website to see if you can find some advice on how to structure a comparison.

Sample Language Analysis Response

The following analysis is written on Chris Middendorp’s article “Why should the public fund private schools” found in the Using Language to Persuade Booklet. It’s not perfect, and in some places it is downright ordinary (and it’s not finished), but it gives you a model you can follow. You should be able to use your three highlighters and separate out the What? How? and Why? Hopefully you’ll be able to see that the How? and the Why? intermingle.


Language Analysis

In a recent opinion , “Why should the public fund private schools”, published in ‘The Age’ (7/1/11) Middendorp addresses the ongoing issue of Government funding of private schools. Last year the Government appointed a panel to review the existing funding model that was implemented by the Howard Government in 2001. Middendorp reasonably contends that we should question whether the current model is what best suits the education needs of ordinary Australians.

Middendorp opens his piece by decrying the old-fashioned traditions and values that the private school represented when he attended one 25 years ago. He describes the ethos of the original Australian private schools as being “filched” from an “archaic British” model in order to show that even then our privates school were class-driven, out-dated and irrelevant. His use of the word “emulate” further suggests that our schools were trying to be like a system that had no grounding in the needs of everyday, ordinary Australians. His naming of a school such as “Eton”, a well-known training ground for the royal family, further highlights the distance between private schools and ordinary Australians. Middendorp remembers the negative elements of his schooling, describing it as “stifling” and “hidebound” in order to show again that the schooling model is so steeped in traditions that it lacks relevance to the real-world. He conjures images of teachers who had nothing better to do than “bully their students” in order to show that even the teaching methodologies of these institutions was questionable. Middendorp urges his readers to view the private school model that we used to have, and which have lead to our current crop of private schools, as having no redeeming qualities, and therefore not something worthy of support, especially via the current funding model that the Government uses.

Middendorp in his next argument contends that these schools must have changed, and examines the reasons that private schools are so popular. The image that accompanies Middendorp’s piece supports the argument made by supporters that private school make citizens with ‘values’. We see rows of conscientiously dressed boys, in neat rows, which are politely raising their hands to answer a question. Middendorp looks unfavourably at these values, and suggests that they are “inculcate[d]”, in an attempt to show that they are pressured on to the students, rather than learnt and internalised. He supports this idea by using examples of the “values” private school students hold: “drugs, shoplifting, bullying and violence.” Middendorp uses the idea of values to move into the main contention of this piece, which is the discrepancy between private and public school funding. He becomes critical of the supporters who claim private schools teach values, yet turn a blind eye to the kind of values that would allow such inequality to exist. Middendorp is encouraging his reader to question “values” that private schools convey, and to see that there is little to justify the government’s funding of private schools.

Middendorp becomes indignant as he highlights the inequality that exists between private and public schooling. Middendorp appeals to his reader’s sense of justice by highlighting with easy to understand dollar figures the amount of money that parents must pay to have access to the education offered by private schools. His comparison of the school of his youth with its “grand buildings, landscaped gardens swimming pools and rowing sheds” to the “under-resourced” schools where parents have “to buy school library books and … toilet paper” is an attempt to highlight the vast differences between the two systems, one with “enormous resources” and one which “struggles to find money … [for] repairs” to urge his reader to consider his contention, expressed simply in the question: “[s]hould the government’s job be to perpetuate this disparity?”

Language Analysis SAC

Your next SAC will have the following format:

Part 1:

  • A 100 minute guided analysis session (21/5) and a 50 minute writing session (23/5).
  • The text will be made available on HOL on 18 May.
  • You will be required to analyse  one  text with an associated visual image.

Part 2:

  • A 60 minute session, after school, on Wednesday 30 May.
  • You will be required to analyse two  texts, one an unseen text and one an unseen visual text.

Part 1 & 2 will be assessed as one piece and worth 20 marks of Unit 3 coursework.

Starting point for Language Analysis SAC

As the title suggests, the aim of the next SAC is to analyse language. It sounds quite simple. And it is.

Whenever we read or hear language, we are instantly analysing its meaning and how it affects us. There are few of us who have never been moved by a stirring speech in a movie and I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves nodding our heads in agreement when listening to someone persuasive.

So, what is happening when language is successful in making us feel strongly about the ideas and arguments it presents? That’s what this SAC is all about. How is the language working?

Ms Gordon’s lecture last week covered the following aspects of Language Analysis. If you want to look at the original Powerpoint check out Haileybury online.

Analysis is examining …

1.                    WHY those language choices have been made

2.                    HOW they work to position the target audience to accept the specific point of view being presented

3.                    DESCRIBING the context of the language use

Assessors are always looking to see what conclusions the student is drawing about the text and how they are supporting their claims.


—To encourage … them to …

—To invite … them to …

—To position … them to …

—To manipulate …

—To coerce …

—To elicit … feelings of …

—To consider, ponder, feel


HOW does the language work :

By appealing to …

—By linking …

—By establishing a contrast between …

—By making reference to …

By criticising …


Analysis is NOT:

—Paraphrasing (summary)

—Explaining what is said / shown

—Explaining what a word means

—Explaining what an author means

—The your point of view

—Your opinion on whether the author is right/wrong





To analyse effectively … you …

… need to step back …

… look at the whole piece …

… to work out how language is being used …


… then zoom in on specific examples …